Thursday 20 July 2017

Reflections on Wargaming Publishing

To the casual observer it looks like 2017 is another golden age of wargaming publishing. Not since the Donald Featherstone era have so many books on our hobby hit the shelves. There are a number of wargaming publishers, all centred on the UK. There are a continual deluge of wargaming books, including many self-published ones. However, the numbers hide a problem; the reality is many of the books are dire.

With the dearth of experienced wargaming editors, the content, history, game system etc. in the books is of variable quality. I bought a second hand book on gaming ancient naval warfare and found the rules were flawed. If you ignore the errors on the picture captions, the book is basic introduction to ancient naval warfare, with some nice pictures, the rules seem to lack play testing. I will give an example. Triremes attacking triremes from the front kill each other on a roll of 2-6 on a six sided dice. This means if you outnumber the enemy you should simply charge the enemy from the front and statistically you will win. E.g. when they lose ¼ of their ships, which is very quick with triremes in these rules. 

Many of the books are far too wide ranging, by authors who lack awareness of developments in the wider wargaming world. They contain the author’s ‘wisdom’ that is either just general knowledge or just wrong. This situation is exasperated by the publishers being forced to keep editorial input to absolute minimum in order to make the books cost effective. 

Of course, there are exceptions. Bob Cordery’s The Portable Wargame is an example of book well written and focussed on a specific theme, games played on small table tops. However, to get to write a book of quality, is the result of writing hundreds of articles over years to develop the craft of word smithing wargaming literature. Most of the new writers arriving on the wargaming publishing block have omitted this literary apprenticeship and it shows. 

What are the potential longer term trends from this? The wargaming publishers are jockeying for brand position, but they are damaging their own name with each publication. For every book such as Frostgrave which succeeds, there are nine more that are not. There are a lot of disappointed authors out there who expected to make substantial income from their pride and joy in print, but are dismayed that the free market is more discerning than they realised.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

New book: Modern Crises Scenarios for Matrix Wargames

“In Matrix Games, knowledge, imagination, and persuasiveness dominate. Both the referee and the players find their greatest success by drawing on their storytelling skills. In many ways, Matrix Games boil down the art of gaming to its essence”. Peter Perla

Invented by Chris Engle, Matrix Games are an innovative way of wargaming situations and conflicts that traditional wargaming methods find hard to model. Since the book Matrix Games for Modern Wargaming was first published in 2014, they have made a massive impact on professional military education, operational analysis and training. 

This book was written in response to requests for a more comprehensive account of how the Matrix Game methodology has developed, plus more real examples of such games from the active edge of their professional application in the UK. 

This book includes six more scenarios to demonstrate different aspects of the method:

  • Baltic Challenge: NATO / Russian Posturing in the Baltic Sea    
  • Mare Nostrum: Russian/ NATO Posturing in the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean
  • The Nine-Dash Line: Incidents in the South China Sea
  • Election in Centralia
  • DPRK: Conflict on the Korean Peninsula
  • De Valera's War: Irish Neutrality in WW2 by John Basset OBE

 This book is published by the History of Wargaming Project as part of its ongoing work to document current practise in wargaming. 

Tuesday 4 July 2017

New professional wargaming book: The Confrontation Analysis Handbook, How to Resolve Confrontations by Eliminating Dilemmas

“This book makes an important contribution to the development of professional wargaming practise”
Dr Peter Perla

with the foreword by Dr Peter Perla.
   Confrontation Analysis, also called dilemma analysis or drama theory, was originally devised by Professor Nigel Howard in 1997 as a way of modelling crises. Although used by UK General Rupert Smith in his 2006 book The Utility of Force, the method fell into obscurity. After 10 years work in the defence sector, the method has been developed into a tool to model and help resolve international confrontations.

     This handbook aims to document the method and equip the reader to apply Confrontation Analysis as an operational analysis technique to structure, understand and think through multi-party interactions such as negotiations. It presents examples how to apply the method, with guidance on the steps to take. It is full of advice based on years of experience of the authors applying the method in the professional arena. All the case studies in this book have been used for real training and research. 
The chapters include examples ranging from the Iranian nuclear weapons crises 2010-15, to the Euro crisis of 2011. Each example is explained in detail to help the reader apply the method for themselves.

Two variants of the method are included; the first uses the example of the Libyan Civil War (2011) to show how to quantifies the dilemmas to help users make judgements. The second uses user generated cards to map out the conflict space. The latter is illustrated by a wargame based on near future cyber conflict around the South China Sea. 

This handbook is published by the History of Wargaming Project as part of its ongoing work to document current practise in wargaming.